Family, Neighbors Question Police Force in Teen’s Death

Residents of a Northern Virginia town are questioning the force used by local police, who killed a teenager whom they say lunged at an officer with a knife. 

Virginia State Police -- who are investigating the case and will turn it over to commonwealth's attorney when their investigation is complete -- say 17-year-old Christian Sierra was shot after police in Purcellville received a 911 call from his friends because he was threatening suicide.

Police say that when an officer arrived and approached Sierra, he lunged at the officer with a knife and was shot. He was then taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

"I pay taxes to train these police officers the proper way," said Christian's father, Eduardo Sierra. "You couldn't handle it that way? Send somebody else."

The family said it doesn't want to blame the officer but questions police procedure.

A neighbor was getting her mail Saturday afternoon when, she said, she heard four gunshots. "It is a shock," she said. "It is the last thing we expected...."

In the 50 years the Purcellville Police Department has been around, an officer has never had to shoot someone.

"What occurred on Saturday is a tragedy for all involved," Pucellville Mayor Bob Lazaro said. "Our officers have received mental health training in terms of awareness... they also just went through a use of force policy [training] not too long ago."

Police Chief Darryl Smith said he is worried the incident will tarnish the town's trust in police officers.

Sierra was remembered during a vigil Sunday night. Sources tell News4 that he was a junior at Loudoun Valley High School. There were extra counselors on hand as school resumed Tuesday.

"He wasn't really close to me, but he was in one of our groups at school," said a classmate. "And he was just a really good guy, honestly."

Sierra's family has not decided to take legal action but started a GoFundMe page to raise money for funeral expenses and an attorney.

"The support from the families, and the community, and the neighbors has been great, but we're really surprised [by] the support of the students, and you know what, we didn't know how much they loved Christian, and unfortunately, he didn't either," Eduardo Sierra said.

The officer was not injured in the incident and is on paid administrative leave.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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